Current Psychiatry Reports

, 18:109 | Cite as

Schools and Disasters: Safety and Mental Health Assessment and Interventions for Children

  • Betty S. Lai
  • Ann-Margaret Esnard
  • Sarah R. Lowe
  • Lori Peek
Child and Family Disaster Psychiatry (B Pfefferbaum, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Child and Family Disaster Psychiatry


This article draws on experiences and lessons from global disasters and utilizes the United Nations Comprehensive School Safety Framework to highlight the necessary role of safe schools in protecting children, as well as adult staff, from the immediate threats and long-term implications of disasters. Specifically, we focus on three well-established pillars of school safety: Pillar I: Safe Learning Facilities; Pillar II: Disaster Management; and Pillar III: Risk Reduction and Resilience Education. In addition, we propose a potential fourth pillar, which underscores the function of schools in postdisaster mental health assessment and intervention for children. We argue that schools offer a central location and trusted institutional space for mental health assessment and intervention after disasters. We also examine the important linkages between schools, child mental health, and household and family recovery. We conclude with recommendations for filling gaps in research and practice related to ensuring the safety of schools and the associated health and well-being of children in the face of future disasters.


Disasters Children Schools Resilience Risk reduction Safety Assessment Intervention Posttraumatic stress 



The authors wish to thank Rayleen Lewis and Michelle Livings, graduate students at the Georgia State University, and Lucy Carter, Scott Kaiser, Meghan Mordy, and Jennifer Tobin-Gurley, graduate students at the Colorado State University, for their assistance with compiling and reviewing literature for this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Sarah R. Lowe and Lori Peek declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Betty S. Lai and Ann-Margaret Esnard received a grant from the National Science Foundation (Award #: 1634234), Characterizing School Recovery After Disasters: Can We Optimize Academic Recovery?.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Betty S. Lai
    • 1
  • Ann-Margaret Esnard
    • 2
  • Sarah R. Lowe
    • 3
  • Lori Peek
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Public HealthGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Andrew Young School of Policy StudiesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyMontclair State UniversityMontclairUSA
  4. 4.Department of SociologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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